Three of the nine sloth bears have died of cold in a plane grounded at Belgium airport.
Three sloth bears have died on an aircraft at Liege airport, after they were left stranded for over 24 hours due to heavy snowfall.
A total of nine bears were on board the aircraft, which was heading from Peru to Qatar and then to Indonesia before being stranded in transit in Grâce-Hollogne.
The airport was paralysed for 24 hours, and no checkup was made on the animals throughout the day, Aviation24.be reported.
Celine Tellier, the Walloon minister for animal welfare, said on Bel-RTL radio: “We are going to look at what are the responsibilities and what sanctions should be taken in light of that.”
Some local newspapers have claimed that the dead animals were not sloth bears, but sloths. However, no official clarification has yet been made.
The nine animals were flown inside an aircraft from a Qatari company that touched down on Saturday morning as cargo.
The aircraft could not be reached safely due to the winter weather, as it was blocked on the taxiway. While the animals are accustomed to temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees, they waited in the freezing cold.
The container was finally opened after 24 hours, revealing that three of them had passed away, most likely from the cold.
The specialised care given to animals, especially horses, at Liege Airport is well known. However, no emergency attempt to save the animals was carried out that day.
As the investigation continues, both the handler and the airport are accusing each other of wrongdoing.